I love opuntias although—or because—they aren’t soft and cuddly. I wish we had room for one of the larger species, like the almost spineless Opuntia robusta shown here. But since we don’t, I’m making do with a few smaller potted specimens.
In the spring, new growth starts to appear. Most of it turns out to be new pads, often looking strange and fascinating:
But with any luck, a few of the buds turn out to be flowers. This is the case with my Opuntia macrocentra var. macrocentra, a plant I bought in January 2011 at UC Berkeley Botanical Garden. While it has put on a few pads since then, it has never bloomed—until now.
This is a picture I took at 8 am this morning:
And this is what I found when I checked again after lunch:
The soft, almost ethereal petals contrast beautifully with the long spines and the bristly bundles of glochids that dot the face of the pads. The inside of the flower is a surprising dark orange. When I showed this flower to my 10-year old daughter, she said it reminded her of a rose. She’s right, it does look a bit like a rose flower on top of a cactus.